Three years ago my mare, Sera, was thinking she didn’t want to work for a living. When I rode her, she’d run through her shoulder, go backwards instead of forwards and she would rear. She was six at the time and a race track reject. And I was teaching my very first "horse project" her new job as a riding horse.
She had me scared. I'll admit it. But I am nothing if not determined! Mostly I could ride her through the bad behavior, but the rearing was freaking me out. I’d jump off when she was at her worst and lunge her. If you can’t be good, you will work my dear. You will go forward and you will work. Hard. And work she did!
Around the time I finally had her convinced to move forward vs. sucking back and going up, I noticed an ad for a “De-Spooking Clinic”. It sounded interesting and maybe it would help me with my courage which was sometimes lacking!
I called the number and talked to the barn owner who was nice as pie, but the clinic was 2.5 hours away. Hmmmm. I wasn’t sure I wanted to drive that far by myself. What if something happened like a flat tire or my truck broke down or there was an accident?? I told the nice woman I’d have to think on it and get back to her.
I can really get myself in a twirl over the “what if’s”. I know it’s a bad habit. I told that voice in my brain to shut up and decided I would go. The woman at the barn gave me the name and number of another person I could meet up with along the way to tailgate with over to the clinic. That made me feel better, at least if something happened on the Interstate, I wouldn’t be totally alone.
Of course Sera and I arrived safe and sound. The barn hosting the clinic was immaculate. There was an ornate, iron, automatic gate that slowly opened when the sensors detected a vehicle. It closed automatically once the vehicle was through. “Wow – that’s fancy.” I thought. I parked my truck and trailer, unloaded my mare, groomed her and walked to the indoor arena.
The first half of the day was ground work with nothing but a halter and lead rope. There were tarps set up and bridges and pots of big bushy plants… things to startle or spook the horses.
We spent the morning in groups at each “station”. Each horse and handler team worked to get their horses over, on or up to whatever scary thing was there. It was fun and watching all the different horse and handler teams was interesting. There was every size and shape of person, horse and pony.
We broke for lunch and we were supposed to meet back up in the indoor fully tacked up and ready to ride in an hour.
When I returned to the indoor with Sera and climbed up on her, she was an instant live wire. She was snorting, tense, running through her shoulder and threatening to rear. I simply breathed, in and out, deep breaths and kept her moving forward. She seemed to be the only horse exhibiting nervous energy and a lot of people were staring at me. I tried to block them out as I moved Sera forward.
She calmed down eventually… well “sort of”. As long as I let her keep moving, she was o.k. While the clinicians talked to everyone about what they would be doing, we were supposed to be on our mounts standing still. Not Sera. Well, not unless they wanted to witness WWIII. I kept her going in small circles both directions, out of everyone’s way. We'd stop occasionally but it wasn't for long.
The clinician wanted me to back her until she’d submit to standing still.
I don’t always stand up for myself very well, but there was no way in hell I was going to go backwards on Sera after I’d spent all winter getting her FORWARD. I politely told them, No thank-you and continued with my mare going forward in little circles.
Sera relaxed as the afternoon wore on and our group finished up with some outdoor riding exercises. Sera was glad to be outside and moving forward. I felt exhausted from a day of trailering, ground work, riding and a lot of different concepts.
I led Sera back to my trailer, untacked her, groomed her and loaded her up. The people I’d followed down were ready to leave and I followed them down the drive. They drove through the fancy, ornate, iron, automatic gate.
I started to drive through the fancy, ornate, iron, automatic gate. I was moving slowly forward, inch by inch. I looked up for a moment, distracted by someone waving goodbye to me.
I looked in my mirrors and the hub of my trailer was impaled on the fancy iron gate. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap. My armpits began sweating profusely. The rig I was following home didn’t see what happened and continued on….
Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap… I didn’t pay close attention to how exactly we got here since I followed them. I’m never going to find my way out of here! Crap, crap, crap…. Beads of sweat appear on my forehead.
I tried to go backwards.
SCREECH CRUNCH SCREECH
Nope. I can’t. My trailer hub has become one with the fancy automatic gate and I’ve completely trashed the first tire.
Everyone in the outdoor arena going through their paces stopped to watch me.
Crap, crap, crap. I want the Earth to open and swallow me whole.
I get out and I smile through clenched teeth while I give a small wave to the onlookers. “Yup – s’all good here. Nothing to look at, I’m fine. See how non-chalant I’m acting? Oh, it’s just a little scratch. Go back to riding – stop looking now. I’ll be on my way in just a moment…”
I look and there is NO WAY I can go forward or backward. A crowd of children has gathered around. Where in the heck did all these kids come from anyway?!
One little boy goes running back to the barn, “Hey you guys! Com're! Lookit this lady who ran into the gate! C’mon! Hurry!”
Please God, can you strike me down dead right now? Please? Pretty please with sugar on top?
The owner of the barn comes out. She is still so nice it’s almost painful. She gets her husband. There is a small crowd surrounding my trailer. Everyone is evaluating the situation.
No one can leave the clinic because I’m blocking the driveway and gate. There are a couple trailers in line to leave. No one can come into the barn for the same reason. There is a boarder in her car waiting to get in on the other side.
My shirt is soaked with nervous, anxious sweat. The pits are wet, the back of my shirt is wet, I have boob sweat and I have sweat running down my face. I want to die from the embarrassment.
The owner’s husband tried a crowbar. No dice. He tried a hammer. Nope. He tried every tool he had without success. My wheel well was melded to the gate. How that happened while I drove 5-10mph I will never know.
His gate was most definitely broken - adding insult to injury. I gave him my information for insurance purposes.
We got my tire changed while people were trying to figure out how to release my trailer from the gate. The people I was going to follow home? The blessed angels realized I wasn’t behind them and they came back for me. I wanted to cover these complete strangers with kisses I was so, so, incredibly grateful.
The barn owner’s husband ended up going back to the barn and bringing back his CHAINSAW to cut the wheel well free from that fancy, ornate, automatic, expensive…. now broken… gate.
And the same little boy who went running off to gather his friends to watch? He looked at the chainsaw, he watched them cut the wheel well away and he looked at my trailer containing Sera who remained totally and completely silent throughout the ordeal.
“Boy. That’s a good horse in there!”